Being German in 20 steps (Part Three)

Posted: February 7, 2013 in life
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Oh boy, did I get some grief for not mentioning German bread in the first 20 steps. It’s possible Germans can also insert yeast into emails, because all the angry ones kept rising to the top of my inbox. I get it. You like bread. But not all bread. Your bread. Just your bread. As an apology I’m going to make a German bread joke in nearly all 5 of my next steps. I hope that’s enough for you to understand how sorry I am.

21. Eat German “bread”

Anyone who doubts how seriously Germans take their bread is either a fool, me, or both. Germans are serious about bread. This is reflected in their bread, which is serious. As opposed to that fluffy white English nonsense, which they see as an unforgivable waste of yeast. A childs finger painting masquerading as high art. It’s true English bread is of the soft and cuddly persuasion. Sometimes I’m not sure whether to make a sandwich with it, or just sort of climb in and have a little nap. It’s a bouncy castle for the taste buds. I can see how you wouldn’t like that. Frivolous. In comparison when I see German bread, I have the urge to thump my chest and shout “Jawohl”.  It packs quite the visual punch. Important is the weight (ideally more than an average new born baby), the colour (rich and dark, like, em, um…swamp mud) and the texture (slightly damp concrete). If dropped, there is an expectation that it should shatter into a thousand pieces.

22. Always send friendly greetings

It’s an accepted internet rule that you can say pretty much whatever you want, as long as you put 🙂 at the end. LOL optional, but encouraged. This removes the option for the receiver (and jokes victim) to be allowed to be offended. After all, there was a smiley face, it was a joke. If you are offended, that’s your fault, you should have a sense of humour. Germans have a similar rule for their communication, but they’ve substituted the smiley face for LG (lovely greetings/regards, crudely translated) or MFG (with friendly greetings), VG (many greetings) or the highly innovative, new, MVFLG (with many friendly lovely greetings), which I may or may not have just made up. You can be as mean as you want, as long as your message is gift wrapped in a parting LG or MFG. I’m not even going to question the logic of signing off with the greeting, an act traditionally saved for the beginning.

23. Say TSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSchüssssssssssss

With the exception of Oktoberfest, Germany is not famous for its excesses. It’s actually rightly appreciated for its modesty and humility. Fine, fine traits. While us Brits where out living it up on bank sponsored credit, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on these little boxes where we’d house ourselves, the Germans stayed in their rented homes, in their beloved kitchens, baking their armories pantry full of yet more delicious German crustbombs bread. There is however, one area where they really like to let their collective hair down though, where they can get really wild and flamboyant, and that’s when saying the word tssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssschhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhüsssssssssssssssssssss I’m not exactly sure how many letters long the word tttttttttttttttttttttssssssssssssssssssssssssccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhüssssssssss actually is, but I’m pretty sure you can’t lay it in the game of scrabble. It should take approximately five seconds to say and be delivered not in your voice, but in one you’ve borrowed from a slightly better, more musical, pitch perfect, you.
Image credit: shirtarrest.

24. Know the answer is to bring Kartoffelsalat

You are probably aware of the eminent Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov and his work on the conditioning of dogs, who he trained to salivate on demand, just by his ringing a small bell. After finding dogs too easy and maliable to his whim, he set out to look for a tougher challenge, one that has until now, received less attention. Discarding the bell, and keen to work with people this time, he devised another ingenious experiment in conditioning only this time on the entire nation of Germany. You may not have heard about it, but if you’ve witnessed the effect. His goal was that when anyone said to a German “You’re invited to a party” or “Lets have a BBQ” they would instinctively think “I’ll make a Kartoffelsalat”. Needless to say, if you’ve been to such an event and seen seven stacked tubs of Kartoffelsalat, you’ll already know it was a perfect success.

25. Prost!!

I imagine prosting or cheersing (if we translate it crudely) used to be fun. You’re in a group, you’ve the luxury of enough money to buy this drink, enough time to devote to the drinking of it, enough friends that want to socialise and drink with you. Prosting is really an act of happy comradery. A short, sweet, clinky, fuck you to the world and its petty problems. When I first arrived here, I prosted as I would in England, maybe we touched glasses, maybe we just lifted them ever so slightly more than we would need to reach our mouths, in a short gesture, before lowering it again and drinking. This isn’t acceptable here. Here all holders of a beverage must compete in a sort of awkward drinking dance, in which everyone must make very, very obvious eye contact with every one else, in turn, and all glasses MUST touch all other glasses. Then, like in Ice Skating, judges, who’ve been watching from the periphery, hold up scorecards for all participants, showing how successfully they’ve taken part across a range of criteria such as “did they clink against every glass, in a logical, clockwise manner” and “duration and intensity of eye contact”.
Some of these topics were suggested in the comments from the first articles. For everyone who suggested them, pat yourselves on your perceptive backs.
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